Above all else, Martin Geduldig believed in fairness.
The longtime Syosset resident and criminal defense attorney built a reputation for taking on difficult cases because he felt strongly that guilt had to be proved and never assumed.
“That was the bedrock of his law practice,” said Janet Geduldig, his wife of 51 years. “People would always say, ‘How can you take that case?’ And his answer was, ‘Everyone deserves to be heard and to have a defense.’ ”
Geduldig, who was a lawyer for more than 50 years and ran his own Long Island-based practice for 49 years before retiring in January, died unexpectedly of an aortic dissection June 24 at his home in Syosset, his family said. He was 78.
“He loved to tell stories about pretty much everything that happened in his life,” said daughter Amy Geduldig, 44, of Forest Hills. “At the root of it, he believed that everyone had the right to tell their story.”
Geduldig was involved in many high-profile cases, his family said. In the 1990s, he defended a man who was part of a group of three men accused of an attempted murder in a lobster turf war on the Long Island Sound. After multiple trials, Geduldig's client and two other defendants were acquitted.
“He just had a knack. It was in his blood,” said John Meringolo, 46, of Brooklyn, who worked with Geduldig. “He was one of the last great trial lawyers that could actually beat the government.”
A father of three, Geduldig tried to make sure work didn’t get in the way of being a dad.
“He made a conscious decision to get home for dinner and get home to coach and watch all of our sports,” said son Sam Geduldig, 47, of Washington, D.C.
Born Oct. 5, 1941, in Manhattan, Geduldig grew up in Queens, the youngest child of two Polish immigrants. He attended Martin Van Buren High School in Queens before moving on to Ohio State University, where he graduated with a history degree in 1963. He earned a degree from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1966.
“When his parents came here, they didn’t speak English, they didn’t have papers, and yet they made a life for themselves,” said daughter Karen Geduldig, 44, of Albany. “I think he kind of took that to heart, that everybody deserved a chance.”
Geduldig met his wife-to-be while the two were stuffing envelopes during Nelson Rockefeller’s 1968 presidential campaign. They were married on March 2, 1969, and lived in Brooklyn Heights, where Geduldig ran unsuccessfully for the state Assembly in 1970. They moved to Hempstead in 1972 and Syosset in 1974.
“When he went to work, he was like a bulldog. But, outside of work he was a gentle, easygoing soul,” said Janet Geduldig, 77, of Syosset.
Geduldig never lost his love for Ohio State, particularly their nationally renowned football program. Every Saturday, he could be found intensely rooting on the Buckeyes, decked out in good luck slippers, hat and a jersey that he would later be buried in, his family said.
Each October, Geduldig and a group of friends would attend an Ohio State football game, reliving their college days at their favorite restaurants. In 2015, Geduldig was in attendance when the Buckeyes won the national championship in Arlington, Texas, Sam Geduldig said.
Geduldig was also a Mets fan who rooted for the team since they replaced his beloved New York baseball Giants in 1962.
In addition to his wife and children, Geduldig is survived by his brother, Arthur, of Aquebogue, and four grandchildren. He was buried after a graveside service at New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon on June 28, his family said. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to be made to the Innocence Project, an organization committed to overturning wrongful convictions.